Two years ago, I enrolled in a French class, with a serious-minded professor. Because I never knew when she might call on me and I didn’t want to be embarrassed by not knowing how to respond, I spent a lot of time studying how to say the days of the week, what food to order in restaurants and the correct time—all in French of course. At any time of day or night, I could be found either listening to French CDs or reciting French phrases, even while I was washing dishes, walking the dog, or driving to the grocery store. Not unexpectedly, the more I read, wrote and spoke French, the more fluent I became.
Of course, my real goal was to become a published author, but I never had enough time to write each day, until one night, one of the characters in my work-in-progress, woke me up with a jolt. The character was adamant about what she was going to do in the next chapter and how I had to make sure that I got all the details correct. Just as I was nodding off to sleep, the male protagonist chimed in and explained how he was going to react to the female lead’s upcoming actions. He told me to get a pen and paper and take notes or he’d have to keep repeating instructions to me all night and it would be unlikely that I’d get any sleep. Being stubborn, I did not get a pen and paper and he did, indeed, keep me awake. He even invited a whole chorus of other characters I didn’t know, who proceeded to join in with their thoughts, desires and upcoming actions.
The next day, I was so busy writing the plot of my story that I barely had time to study French. I set aside the language books and begin to read craft books on writing and applying my newfound knowledge to my manuscript. Instead of listening to French CDs, I listened to established authors share how they wrote in the morning or late into the night until they saw the sun rising over the horizon. My French words were replaced with writing phrases: show-don’t tell, character agency, story arcs, beats and world-building. This was a whole new vocabulary that would lead me to a different, but essential type of literacy and understanding of novel design and structure.
The truth is, how we spend our time, is a reflection of that which is truly important to us. What we nurture and tend to is more likely to grow and flourish than that which we occasionally dabble in, when we have a few moments to spare. Rather it’s watching several of your favorite, highly entertaining nightly television shows or responding to the never-ending demands of social media interactions, we prioritize what is important to us. We begin the day with twenty-four hours. A big chunk of that time will be spent on survival and maintenance. You know—working, cleaning, eating and resting. What we do with what remains, rather it be thirty minutes or a hundred and twenty, is our choice, to do with as we please.
Writing takes the time it takes. I wish I wrote faster, but those words come out one at a time. I’m grateful that my character woke me up from my distorted belief that I had no time to write, but plenty of time for something else that was at the bottom of my must-accomplish list. That order needed to be reversed and now that I’ve followed my real passion, my publishing dreams are being realized.
Be honest with yourself, what is it that you desire to accomplish? Is your energy output contributing to obtaining that goal? Words are magic. Words grow up to become sentences. Sentences become paragraphs, which become pages, which ultimately become books. But, it comes with a price—your time, energy and commitment. When you look back a year from now, will you describe yourself as a consumer of the cornucopia of distractions that surrounds us all or will you be a creator of something uniquely you?